Indian corporates, get your act right

August 15th, 2011 - 2:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) They are actors, their students are top Indian corporates and they can sure teach a thing or two about posturing, interjection and voice modulation that could make or break a mega business deal. It could be a tip on increasing the decibel level or simply explaining what to do with that awkwardly dangling left hand while making a presentation - but, as many Indian corporates are discovering, the ‘acting’ lessons - or training in soft skills - can be invaluable.

Acanthus Associates, one such Britain-based firm, was recently in India to conduct a training programme with a global audit and advisory services firm. Launched in 2009 by Nicky Thompson, the core group of the company comprises six members, all coming in with some kind of acting background.

“The combination of acting and business is unusual. All of us have a pretty broad background in business. A couple of us have worked in business… one is an accountant. Besides, we have all done additional training,” Thompson told IANS.

For the two-day training, Thompson started with role-playing exercises where her team members acted like clients, CEOs and colleagues while interacting with the real life corporate participants.

Partha Guha, one such participant, said: “In one meeting, one person was talking about how he’s moving on to a new role in the company. So I was told that at that point, I should have got up and said ‘congratulations’, which would have helped in building a personal rapport.”

Guha says he found the training personally very beneficial as “in industries where interaction with clients is a critical thing, it’s important to know what are the things we need to say or how we should address a particular issue or how we should read other people.

“What these guys do is they develop a very interesting and engaging way of addressing some of these needs for soft skills,” he added.

The trainers encourage you to speak, gauge your shyness level and point out when the confidence on your face is not reflected through your voice.

Thompson says she usually designs their training modules according to the client company’s requirement. But broadly “we try to tell an individual how to make an impact with his presence, coming across in a way which is authentic, effective, how to flex style and use it in influencing and negotiating during meetings”.

While internationally there are groups like Impact Factory and Theatre of Leadership that have made a name in this business, back home Theatre Nisha runs similar programmes with firms like Cognizant, Lanson Toyota, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services.

Chennai-based V. Balakrishnan, a product of the National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi, conducts these sessions along with his team whose strength varies from six to 10.

“We design the module according to the company’s need. It may range from basic introduction to icebreaker sessions to business motivation sessions. It may be about lifting morale or creating an atmosphere of trust,” Balakrishnan, who has 18 years of experience in theatre, told IANS.

While Theatre Nisha conducts training sessions only in a group as it believes “for the proper communion to be evoked, the entire team must participate”, Acanthus designs programmes for individuals as well.

Describing the modus operandi, Thompson says the first step is to have an interaction with an individual and analysing “if he is sounding confident but not making eye contact. After that, we have a series of practical exercises that can go into months”.

Ask her how different is her current job from acting and she says: “Not every actor can do this. You play a character, but you have to focus on others’ need more than your own performance!”

And what if she encounters an exceptionally reserved participant? “Some people are very uncomfortable with change, we encourage them to do one thing differently every day. It cuts the pathways in the brain, and makes them more receptive.”

Balakrishnan, however, starts with physical exercises for the shy ones so that they get to relax and make a start on their own.

Rashmi Rajput, an HR manager at Cognizant in Chennai, who regularly calls Balakrishnan to take one-day training sessions during the induction of new joinees, said: “We don’t want our induction to be boring, we want it to be fun, an interactive activity…so we call him.”

(Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at mohita.n@ians.in)

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